The sweet-swinging eight-time All-Star was one of the most consistent players of his time and one of the best switch-hitters ever. Murray is one of four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits (along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Rafael Palmeiro).
Murray was born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1956. He shares a birthday with Honus Wagner, Mike Lowell, Bronson Arroyo and a couple of current Minnesota Twins, Nick Blackburn and Chris Parmelee.
He was taken by the Orioles in the third round of the 1973 draft out of Locke High School in L.A. (where he played with Ozzie Smith). Only 17, he batted .287 and slugged .495 for the Bluefield Orioles in his professional debut season and was named an Appalachian League All-Star.
Called up to Baltimore in 1977, he got the Opening Day start at designated hitter and batted fifth. It was a heck of a game, with Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Bert Blyleven dueling for ten innings. Murray struck out in his first big league at bat, but don't worry Eddie, Blyleven ranks fifth on the all-time list in K's*. He notched his first career hit in the seventh inning, keying a seventh-inning rally to tie the game. Visiting Texas scratched a run in the tenth against Palmer and eked out the victory.
* Murray would own Blyleven for the rest of his career going 26-for-62 (.419) with seven home runs, the most he would slug against any pitcher.
He made an immediate impact in '77, hitting .283 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs to bring home the American League Rookie of the Year Award*.
* He beat out Oakland A's outfielder and fellow '73 third-rounder Mitchell Page in the voting 12-9. Page more than doubled Murray's bWAR total (6.0-2.9) and outpaced him in all three slash categories (.307/.405/.521 to .283/.333/.470). His 21 homers and 75 RBIs were close to Murray's totals and he added 42 steals while Murray stole none. Page never duplicated the success of his rookie year, but he put together a solid eight-year career with an overall OPS+ of 118. After his playing days, he was a minor league hitting coach and even acted in the 1994 film "Angels in the Outfield." Page served as Tony LaRussa's hitting coach in St. Louis from 2001-04. He died last March at just 59 years old.
Murray put up nearly identical stats in his sophomore season of 1978, earning his first All-Star nod.
The O's rolled to 102 wins in 1979 and Murray tasted the postseason for the first time. One of those 102 victories was this game in Minnesota when he hit three homers and drove in all seven Oriole runs. He wrecked the Angels in a four-game ALCS victory, batting .417 with five hits, five walks and five RBIs in 17 plate appearances*.
* If there was an ALCS MVP in '79 it would have been Murray. I knew that it took a while for the LCS Awards to be established, but I didn't know that while the National League award started in 1977, it wasn't until 1980 that they awarded one for the American League playoff.
In the World Series against Pittsburgh he opened on a tear, including a three-hit night and a homer off Blyleven in Game Two. The Orioles led the series 3-1, but Murray went 0-for-12 as the Pirates stormed back to win three straight to take the championship.
* The Buccos won Games Six and Seven in Baltimore to complete the comeback. The "We are Family" Pirates are the last team to win the seventh game of the World Series on the road. The Cardinals' Game Seven win last year was the ninth straight by the home team. In fact, until the Pittsburgh Penguins won in Detroit to take the 2009 Stanley Cup, the Pirates were the last visitor in any of the major sports to win the ultimate game. Since '79 MLB, NBA and NHL home teams are 20-2 in Finals Game Sevens. The Bruins won the Cup last year in Vancouver, which was promptly burned to the ground or something.
In 1980, his fourth full season, he batted .300, reached the 30 homer mark and hit triple digits in both runs and RBIs for the first time. On September 14, he had this game where he hit three homers in a loss at Toronto. It's one of only 16 games that a player homered three times, accounted for all of his team's runs, yet still lost:
|2||Moose Solters||1935-07-07||SLB||DET||L 5-12||5||5||3||3||3||5||0.000|
|3||Johnny Mize||1938-07-13||STL||BSN||L 5-10||4||4||3||3||3||5||0.000|
|4||Hank Leiber||1939-07-04 (1)||CHC||STL||L 4-6||4||4||3||3||3||4||0.000|
|5||Clyde McCullough||1942-07-26 (1)||CHC||PHI||L 3-4||4||4||3||3||3||3||0.000|
|6||Gus Bell||1955-07-21||CIN||PHI||L 3-5||5||5||3||3||3||3||0.409|
|7||Jim Lemon||1956-08-31||WSH||NYY||L 4-6||4||4||3||3||3||4||0.386|
|8||Roberto Clemente||1967-05-15||PIT||CIN||L 7-8||5||5||3||4||3||7||0.609|
|9||Willie Stargell||1971-04-10||PIT||ATL||L 4-5||5||5||3||3||3||4||0.429|
|10||Larry Parrish||1980-04-25||MON||ATL||L 7-8||5||5||3||3||3||7||0.693|
|11||Eddie Murray||1980-09-14||BAL||TOR||L 3-4||6||6||3||4||3||3||0.750|
|12||Doug DeCinces||1982-08-03||CAL||MIN||L 4-5||5||5||3||3||3||4||0.303|
|13||Glenn Davis||1990-06-01||HOU||SFG||L 5-6||5||5||3||3||3||5||0.662|
|14||Carlos Baerga||1993-06-17||CLE||DET||L 5-9||4||4||3||3||3||5||0.275|
|15||Steve Finley||2004-04-28||ARI||CHC||L 3-4||4||4||3||3||3||3||0.539|
|16||Jose Reyes||2006-08-15||NYM||PHI||L 4-11||4||3||3||3||3||4||0.139|
|17||Miguel Cabrera||2010-05-28||DET||OAK||L 4-5||4||4||3||3||3||4||0.423|
1981 was even better. He led the AL in homers (22) and runs batted in (78) in a strike-shortened season of 105 games. Projected out to 162 games, those totals would be 34 and 120. It's worth noting that there was a four-way tie atop the AL in homers between Murray, Bobby Grich, Dwight Evans and Tony Armas.
The following year he earned his first of three Gold Gloves and led the circuit in intentional walks. He would turn that trick again in 1984. Only Mike Schmidt, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro have led the loop in IBB and won a Gold Glove in the same season twice.
Murray was back in the postseason in 1983. The Orioles dropped the ALCS opener at home against the White Sox, but they outscored Chicago 18-1 over the next three games to get back to the Fall Classic. He got off to a slow start against the Phillies, batting .125 for the first four games. But he hit two huge homers at the Vet in the clinching fifth game and the O's won the title.
In 1984 he hit .306 for the second straight year and played all 162 games. He led the league with 107 walks and a .410 OBP, the only times he led the league in either category. He also ran up a career-high hitting streak of 22 games.
From 1981-85, he led the American League with a 154 OPS+ and finished in the top five in the MVP voting each year. But with finishes of fifth, second, second, fourth and fifth, he never won it. He is one of five players to net at least five straight top five finishes.
|Cons. Top 5||Years|
Murray was the only one to not win the award during their streak. In the middle season of that string, he finished second to teammate Cal Ripken in the voting. I'll dust off the following table from my previous Ripken post of teammates that were 1-2 in the MVP voting:
|SF||Jeff Kent||Barry Bonds|
|1990 NL||PIT||Barry Bonds||Bobby Bonilla|
|1989 NL||SF||Kevin Mitchell||Will Clark|
|1983 AL||BAL||Cal Ripken||Eddie Murray|
|1976 NL||CIN||Joe Morgan||George Foster|
|1971 AL||OAK||Vida Blue||Sal Bando|
|1968 AL||DET||Denny McLain||Bill Freehan|
|1967 NL||STL||Orlando Cepeda||Tim McCarver|
|1966 AL||BAL||Frank Robinson||Brooks Robinson|
|1965 AL||MIN||Zoilo Versalles||Tony Oliva|
|1962 AL||NYY||Mickey Mantle|| |
|1961 AL||NYY||Roger Maris||Mickey Mantle|
|1960 AL||NYY||Roger Maris||Mickey Mantle|
|1960 NL||PIT||Dick Groat||Don Hoak|
|1959 AL||CWS||Nellie Fox||Luis Aparicio|
|1956 AL||NYY||Mickey Mantle||Yogi Berra|
|1956 NL||BKN||Don Newcombe||Sal Maglie|
|1955 NL||BKN||Roy Campanella||Duke Snider|
|1945 AL||DET||Hal Newhouser||Eddie Mayo|
|1944 AL||DET||Hal Newhouser||Dizzy Trout|
|1943 NL||STL||Stan Musial||Walker Cooper|
|1942 NL||STL||Mort Cooper||Enos Slaughter|
|1941 NL||BKN||Dolph Camilli||Pete Reiser|
|1934 AL||DET||Mickey Cochrane|| |
* There have been three 1-2-3 teammate finishes. Boog Powell came in third behind the Robinsons in 1966. The 1959 Go-Go Sox had Early Wynn behind the Fox-Aparicio double-play combo, and Whit Wyatt of the 1941 Dodgers was third behind teammates Camilli and Reiser.
Baseball-Reference has an interesting stat called MVP Shares. This is a percentage of MVP voting points a player gets relative to the total amount of possible points in a given year or career. The career leaders in MVP Shares are listed here. Murray ranks 21st, but he accumulated the most shares without ever winning the award.
Over the first nine years of his career, he batted .298/373/.509, averaging 29 home runs and 103 RBIs. Over that span from 1977-85, he ranked seventh in the majors in bWAR, second in RBIs, third in homers, and fourth in runs and hits. Among those with at least 4,000 at bats over the nine years, he trailed only Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Jim Rice in OPS. Emblematic of his consistency, from 1981-84 he posted an OPS+ of exactly 156, enough to rank second in the AL in each of the final three years of that streak.
He had a career night on August 26, 1985. He tied a personal-best with three homers, including a grand slam, and drove in a career-high nine runs in this drubbing of the Angels.
He suffered through Baltimore's famous season-opening 21-game losing streak in 1988. In game #22, it was Murray who said enough was enough, homering in the top of the first off Jack McDowell to begin a 9-0 romp of the White Sox at Comiskey Park.
The old record for consecutive losses to start a season was 13, set by the 1904 Senators and 1920 Tigers. The O's obliterated that mark and broke the American League record for consecutive losses (20, set by the 1906 Red Sox, 1916 A's and 1943 A's). Think back to Opening Day and realize that teams won't be playing their 22nd game of this season until Saturday or Sunday. The Orioles finished the '88 campaign at 54-107.
Murray had disputes with management and eventually was traded to the Dodgers. Murray averaged 25 home runs with a 130 OPS+ over his last three seasons in Baltimore. Here are the three players the Orioles got back from Los Angeles:
IF Juan Bell (.167/.196/.242 and -1.5 bWAR in 113 games for BAL)
RHP Brian Holton (After a great '88 for champion Dodgers, went 7-10 with 4.18 ERA in two seasons for O's)
RHP Ken Howell (Traded four days later to Phillies for OF Phil Bradley, who gave the O's a year and a half of 116 OPS+)
Meanwhile, Murray's first homer in Dodger blue was a big one, a ninth-inning tie-breaking grand slam to beat the rival Giants at Candlestick. He had three productive seasons back in his hometown, including a unique one in 1990.
Murray hit .330 in 1990, the highest mark in all of major league baseball. But he didn't win the batting title! On August 29, Willie McGee was traded from the Cardinals to the A's and all of his National League stats froze with the deal. He was hitting .335 and his 542 plate appearances were enough to qualify. He fell off a bit in Oakland, finishing at .324 overall. Murray got hot down the stretch and beat out George Brett for the ML crown, but he couldn't quite top McGee's .335. This is the only time in the modern era that a batting title was lost like this.
As a free agent in 1992, Murray signed a two-year, $ 7.5 million deal with the Mets. He was still a solid everyday first baseman at 36 and 37, knocking in 193 runs with a 113 OPS+ over the two seasons. The Mets were in the doldrums though, losing 90 and 103 games in '92 and '93. This particular era at Shea was marred by Bobby Bonilla's sulking*, Vince Coleman's firecracker incident, and poor Anthony Young's losing streak.
* Bonilla is STILL GETTING PAID BY THE METS. And he will through 2035. Babies born today will have graduated from college by then. As for Young, from April 24, 1992 to July 24, 1993 he went 0-27 to set a record for consecutive losing decisions. His 4.37 ERA during the streak was bad, but not as terrible as the historic nature of the streak would suggest. He split time between the rotation and the pen. He even filled in for an injured John Franco and recorded 15 saves early in the streak.
Murray moved on to Cleveland in 1994 and on June 30, 1995 he became the 20th player to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. That Indians club went 100-44 in a strike-shortened season and cruised to the World Series*. Murray is the only player to make the World Series in the season that he recorded his 3,000th hit. Frank Robinson is the only one to win the pennant the year he hit his 500th homer (1971).
* That Tribe club had an amazing year. Their win total projects to 113 in a 162-game season, but the '94 strike delayed Opening Day until late April.
It was a great World Series matchup with the Cleveland lineup of Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Murray, Jim Thome and a young Manny Ramirez going against the prolific Atlanta Braves staff of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz*.
* Those six Indians hitters all batted over .300 in 1995. It's the only time since 1938 that a team had six players hit .300.
Atlanta took the first game and although Murray homered in Game Two off Glavine, the Bravos came back to go up 2-0 as the series shifted to Ohio.
As Game Three went into extra innings, Murray brought the Indians back into the series with this walk-off hit, one of only 26 game-ending hits in the history of the Fall Classic. Unfortunately for Murray, the Braves would go on to win the series in six games.
While he had a homecoming with his L.A. stint, it was a different homecoming in 1996. Murray went back to where he spent the first 12 years of his career, as he was dealt to Baltimore in July.
Sitting on 491 career homers, Murray chased the magic number of 500 in the city where he hit his first 333. He became the 15th player to reach the milestone on September 6, 1996 with a shot off Felipe Lira at Camden Yards. It came one year to the day after Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record, also in Baltimore. He got to 500 with his amazing consistency. He never hit more than 33 homers in a season, but his 16 seasons of 20 or more are tied for fifth in MLB history (behind Aaron, Bonds, Robinson and Mays).
He was back in the playoffs that October, but his Orioles fell in the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. His last postseason at bat was a home run off Andy Pettitte in the clinching game.
Murray went back home for his final season, starting 1997 with the Angels and ending it with a nine-game cameo with the Dodgers. On the one-year anniversary of his 500th homer, he knocked an RBI pinch-hit single for his final career hit.
He hung up his spikes after a remarkable 21-year career. With 85.3 percent of the vote on the first ballot, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. He spent the first ten seasons of his post-playing days as a coach for three of his former teams, the Orioles (1998-2001), Indians (2002-05) and Dodgers (2006-07).
Where does Murray rank among the greatest first baseman of all time? Here are the bWAR leaders among those who played at least half their games at 1B:
He has batted cleanup in more games than any other player in history. Here's the list of most games hitting fourth in the lineup, it's an interesting group:
|1||Eddie Murray||2041||Ind. Games||2233||391||26||348||1340||996||1001||.291||.370||.485||.854|
|2||Fred McGriff||1826||Ind. Games||1935||335||16||364||1224||974||1363||.288||.378||.505||.883|
|3||Willie McCovey||1622||Ind. Games||1502||269||23||360||1083||998||988||.270||.381||.520||.901|
|4||Lou Gehrig||1545||Ind. Games||1998||376||107||383||1514||1125||508||.345||.454||.645||1.100|
|5||Willie Stargell||1534||Ind. Games||1637||313||35||357||1131||711||1352||.286||.368||.541||.908|
|6||Jim Bottomley||1525||Ind. Games||1883||390||122||183||1158||535||485||.312||.371||.509||.880|
|7||Greg Luzinski||1521||Ind. Games||1549||294||20||267||992||737||1289||.277||.364||.480||.844|
|8||Dave Winfield||1484||Ind. Games||1603||285||42||235||975||656||868||.285||.358||.476||.833|
|9||Albert Belle||1448||Ind. Games||1646||374||17||366||1184||666||887||.297||.374||.570||.944|
|10||Manny Ramirez||1445||Ind. Games||1694||354||11||373||1215||869||1175||.319||.419||.601||1.019|
|11||Frank Robinson||1415||Ind. Games||1507||295||39||283||973||728||769||.292||.387||.529||.916|
|12||Joe Medwick||1413||Ind. Games||1879||410||87||160||1083||329||422||.326||.364||.511||.875|
|13||Tony Perez||1401||Ind. Games||1473||271||39||207||901||496||976||.278||.338||.460||.798|
|14||Carlos Delgado||1393||Ind. Games||1448||353||12||347||1112||847||1191||.287||.398||.567||.965|
|15||Joe DiMaggio||1375||Ind. Games||1727||294||97||277||1207||682||274||.324||.405||.572||.977|
|16||Jeff Kent||1351||Ind. Games||1518||358||30||232||961||538||885||.295||.365||.512||.877|
|17||Bob Elliott||1308||Ind. Games||1429||255||61||131||874||729||436||.291||.383||.447||.831|
|18||Ron Santo||1284||Ind. Games||1356||207||47||217||823||670||779||.288||.374||.490||.864|
|19||Juan Gonzalez||1260||Ind. Games||1497||300||17||346||1096||352||940||.302||.349||.578||.927|
|20||Al Simmons||1258||Ind. Games||1816||323||94||217||1209||353||438||.350||.393||.574||.967|
Murray hit the most home runs at Memorial Stadium, which is where the Orioles called home from their first game in 1954 through 1991 before moving to Camden Yards.
Here's where he ranks among Orioles in home runs:
|All-Time BAL List||HR|
* Two St. Louis Browns are in the top ten on the franchise leaderboard. Ken Williams (185, 1918-27) and Harlond Clift (170, 1934-43) rank seventh and tenth, respectively.
Elsewhere in Orioles franchise ranks, he's third behind Ripken and Brooks Robinson in bWAR and second to Ripken in Offensive WAR. Only Ripken, Robinson and Mark Belanger played more games for the O's.
During his lengthy prime from 1977-1990, Murray ranks sixth in bWAR, right between Wade Boggs and Gary Carter. He had the most hits in that span (2,352), beating Robin Yount by one. His 379 homers were second only to Mike Schmidt.
He's played more games at first base (2,413) than any other player in major league history. His 128 sacrifice flies are also a major league record, though that has only been an official stat since 1954. He's all over other career leaderboards:
3,026 games, exactly as many as Stan Musial, enough for sixth-most all time.
66.7 bWAR, 72nd among position players and 102nd among all players.
3,255 hits, 12th all time (will drop to 13th this season if Derek Jeter gets 168 hits in 2012).
504 home runs, 25th all time.
1,917 RBI, ninth all time (Alex Rodriguez will pass him with 18 more, but his spot in the top ten is still safe).
19 grand slams, fourth all time (Drama atop the leaderboard with Gehrig's 23 under assault by A-Rod's 22 and a returning Manny Ramirez with 21).
On the All-1980s Team, he's a good choice at first base. Here's his rank in bWAR among 1B from 1980-89:
* Mattingly missed the first two years of the decade, but he'd need two 6 WAR seasons (top ten in MLB-level) to beat Murray. Also note that Will Clark makes the top five even though he didn't debut until 1986!
If you're making a list of the greatest Baltimore Orioles, he's a no-brainer to slot in third behind Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson. Even with a bag of baseballs at second base, that's some infield.
Eddie Murray's was another amazing career that got its start at Bowen Field.
|SP 1||Dean Chance|
|SP 3||Bill Monbouquette|